Congratulations to our 10 PhD students slected to represent Western University at the Canadian Student Health Research Forum (CSHRF) in Winnipeg this June

Graduate Profiles

Name: Di Chen

Affiliations:  Department of Pathology, CIHR Strategic Training Program in Cancer Research and Technology Transfer , Matthew Mailing Centre for Translational Transplant Studies; Western University
Supervisor (s):  Dr.Weiping Min

Winner of Gold Medal at National CSHRF conference


About Di Chen:

I completed my masters training in Immunology at 2008 in JiNan University, China. I started my PhD training under the supervision of Dr. Weiping Min in the Department of Pathology at Western University in January 2009. My current training activities are mainly focused on anti-cancer immunologic therapy through gene-silencing in vivo. I am engaged in basic and translational immune-based anti-tumor therapy (DC vaccines), that have been used clinically since 1996 but with limited success. Although generating new knowledge is an important part of my program, creating better cancer treatments using that knowledge is critical. My research and training program is dedicated to that treatment goal.

Why I enjoyed CSHRF:

I hope to expand my research horizons to include new knowledge and technical skills in pre-clinical cancer research, cancer imaging, anti-cancer therapy and pharmacokinetics. CSHRF offers a very good communication platform for the researchers from all over the country. I believe this cross-disciplinary communication experience will be an asset for my future career as a successful cancer researcher.

Name:  Christine Bell

Affiliations: Western University, CHRI, Lawson, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Supervisor:  Dr. Andrew J. Watson
Winner of Siliver Medal at National CSHRF conference


About Dr. Christine Bell:

I am a recent PhD graduate from the department of physiology and pharmacology at Western University. My research was focused on the preimplantation mouse embryo and how it responds to changes in the environment, such as stress, temperature, or nutrient availability. The embryo is equipped with many different mechanisms to respond to environmental changes, one of which is the p38 MAPK pathway. My research investigated the role of the p38 MAPK pathway in mediating a response to stress as well as direction embryo development. I showed that the p38 pathway does help the embryo respond to stress and also regulates many genes involved in embryo formation. Therefore, the p38 pathway plays both an adaptive role and a developmental role in the early embryo, making it a very dynamic and interesting pathway to study. During my PhD, I experienced first hand knowledge of my area of study when my husband and I became pregnant

Why I enjoyed CSHRF:

My trip out to Winnipeg was the first time I was truly away from my young son, but the conference was certainly worth the trip. I had a great time getting to know other students from across Schulich School of Medicine. Meeting people from across Canada and learning about such diverse research was a real highlight for me as well. As I've now completed my PhD, I have felt truly blessed to be a part of such a great event.

Name: Alysha Croker

Affiliations:   Western University, London Regional Cancer Program, Lawson Health Research Institute

Supervisor: Dr. Alison Allan

Winner of Honorable Mention at National CSHRF conference


About Alysha Croker:

Alysha Croker is a 5th year PhD candidate in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, working under Dr. Alison Allan at the London Regional Cancer Program.  She is currently funded by a Banting and Best Fellowship through CIHR, and was funded by a fellowship from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation before that.  She studies breast cancer metastasis and the reasons our current cancer therapies fail in the metastatic setting.  In particular, she looks at whether cancer stem cells play a role in metastasis and/or therapy resistance, and the molecular mechanisms behind how this works.  In her spare time, she sings, writes stories, and runs the Let’s Talk Science program at UWO.  As for future ambitions...who knows?  There are so many choices! 

Why I enjoyed CSHRF:

The best part of the CSHRF was meeting like-minded graduate students from across the country, and talking about their work and their experiences in grad school.  It was an excellent opportunity to network and discuss the future.

Name:  Nicole M Novielli

Affiliations:  Department of Medical Biophysics, Western University
Supervisor:  Dr. Dwayne N. Jackson


Why I enjoyed CSHRF:

Receiving an invitation to participate CSHRF 2012 was a great privilege as only a small percentage of students across Canada get to participate. I was very excited to present my work to a new audience, take part in a competition, and make new contacts with fellow graduate students. It was an event allowing young scientists to connect on both a scientific level and social level. I would urge any student who is chosen to participate in the future to take advantage of the opportunity.

Nicole presented research on: Impaired microvascular control in contracting skeletal muscle in a murine model of prediabetes at the National Conference.



Name: Christina Raykha

Affiliations: University of Western Ontario, Lawson Health Research Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital

Supervisor:  Dr. David O'Gorman


About Christina Raykha:

I am currently a 3rd year PhD student in Biochemistry working under the direction of Dr. David O’Gorman at Lawson Health Research Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital. We work on identifying molecular targets for future development of non-surgical interventions for Dupuytren’s Disease-afflicted patients. These patients suffer from incurable, permanent finger contractures (think of one or more of your fingers bending forward permanently) and have few successful options for treatment, as the disease tends to recur in 1 out of every 3 patients. My research currently focuses on assessing whether IGFBP-6 could serve as a potential target, as this protein seems to be turned OFF in the diseased cells.

I enjoy clinical research and after completing my PhD, I would like to pursue medicine. This will allow me to merge my skill sets achieved with both degrees and continue on in research with a better grasp on what can be done for patients.

Why I enjoyed CSHRF:

The CSHRF 2012 brought together students across the nation (notably most were from Ontario), and it was meeting these graduate students who were all passionate about their work that was most appealing to me at the forum. Admittedly, I was also very happy to have met the other 9 students from Western, as I learned a lot from them about the different types of health research going on just in London, which really highlighted the efforts we are all putting forth to advance the field in our own way.  

Name:  Henry A. Dunn

Affiliations:  Western University, Robarts Research Institute
Supervisor:  Dr. Stephen S.G. Ferguson

Winner of Honorable Mention at National CSHRF conference


About Henry Dunn:

I'm a PhD student in Dr. Stephen S.G. Ferguson's lab with a keen interest in G protein-coupled receptors. My research focusses on identifying and characterizing the molecular mechanisms behind stress-induced anxiety and depression. Alongside my research, I teach Physiology to approximately 250 first-year Nursing students in the Collaborative Nursing Program at Western University and Fanshawe College, and I supervise the thesis-projects of some fourth-year Physiology students in my lab. I've recently been honoured as the first recipient of the Jonathan & Joshua Memorial Graduate Scholarship in Mental Health Research, and I was nominated to attend the Canadian Student Health Research Forum where I received an Honourable Mention in the CIHR National Student Research Poster Presentation.

Why I enjoyed CSHRF:

 In attending this Forum, I had the pleasure of discussing my research with brilliant Students and Faculty from across Canada, and I learned about many other exciting research-projects in the interdisciplinary field of Health Research.

Henry presented his research on: SAP97 regulates CRFR1 trafficking and ERK1/2 phosphorylation through a novel interaction with the CRFR1 PDZ-binding motif

Name:  Eli Gibson

Affiliations:  Robarts Research Institute, Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program
Supervisor:  Dr. Aaron Fenster, Dr. Aaron D. Ward



Eli presented his research on: Ontario's first 18F choline prostate PET images: histology and multi-parametric MRI correlation.

Name:  Ana Luisa Trejos

Affiliations:  Canadian Surgical Technologies and Advanced Robotics, Lawson, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Western University
Supervisor:  Dr. Rajni Patel

Winner of Honorable Mention at the National Conference


About Ana Luisa Trejos:

Ana Luisa received her B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica in 1997 and her M.A.Sc. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, in 2000. From 2000 to 2003 she worked as an applications engineer for Progressive Moulded Products in Concord, Ontario. Since 2004, Ana Luisa has worked at CSTAR and in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Western as a Research Associate. Currently, she is also pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering as part of the NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program in Computer-Assisted Medical Interventions (CAMI).

She expects to complete her degree this summer and will be starting a new tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Western in January 2013*.

Ana Luisa is involved in several projects dealing with engineering research for minimally invasive surgery. Her research interests include the optimization of robot performance, the design, integration and testing of mechatronic devices and systems for minimally invasive surgery and the development of better methods for skills assessment and training in minimally invasive surgery.

Why I enjoyed CSHRF:

It was an honour to have been selected to attend CSHRF this year. I felt part of a great team representing Western. It was an excellent opportunity to meet students from Western and from all over Canada doing amazing research. It certainly was an opportunity to generate new ideas and investigate new avenues of collaboration.

Name:  Gurjeev Sohi

Affiliations:  The Department of Physiology & Pharmacology, Western University, The Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, The Children's Health Research Institute, The Lawson Health Research Institute

Supervisor:  Dr. Daniel B. Hardy


About Gurjeev Sohi:

I completed my undergraduate at the University of Toronto with a specialist in Physiology. During those years I was involved with Community Living at Mississauga where I took the role of a respite assistant, I was responsible for helping teenagers with intellectual disability develop important life skills that would allow them to better integrate within society. This experience left a positive impact on my life, where I decided that my work and ambitions should be in parallel toward making a difference in the world. My overall research as a PhD candidate working with Dr. Daniel Hardy at Western University is aimed at uncovering mechanisms that predispose low birth weight babies to increased risk of developing the metabolic syndrome in adult life. My initial graduate project was the first to demonstrate that maternal undernutrition alone can lead to long-term elevated cholesterol in low birth weight male offspring due to promoter-specific post-translational histone modifications at a key cholesterol regulatory gene, cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase. The findings from this project formed the basis of a recently published first-author Molecular Endocrinology article. In addition, I was fortunate to present this data at the annual Endocrine Society meeting in San Diego, where I was the recipient of the Presidential Poster Award. After the commencement of this project, I published a first-author literature review in Seminars of Reproductive Medicine, which critically analyzed findings from both clinical and animal studies involved with the understanding of the long-term implications of low birth weight offspring on cholesterol homeostasis. I have recently completed my third manuscript where we demonstrated that low birth weight rat offspring display long-term elevation of hepatic Endoplasmic Reticulum stress. This is a novel finding because even though previous studies have observed Endoplasmic Reticulum stress to lead to symptoms of metabolic syndrome, we are the first to investigate this in association with low birth weight babies that display this syndrome in adult life. This work recently received international recognition as I was awarded the Pfizer president’s presenter’s award at the Society of Gynecological Investigation in San Diego. My present project emphasizes on immediate clinical applicability where I am investigating whether low birth babies are more likely to display side effects upon treatment with statin class of cholesterol lowering drugs. Moreover, determine whether these side effects are due to long-term transcriptional impairment of statin metabolizing enzymes in low birth weight babies. Future work will be aimed at catering to themes of personalized medicine and intervention strategies to prevent onset of metabolic syndrome.

Why I enjoyed CSHRF:

I thoroughly enjoyed the CSHRF forum as it gave me the opportunity to meet and network with like-minded individuals who share a similar passion and goal to making a positive difference in society and who will undoubtedly become leaders in their respective fields of health care in the near future.

Name: Matthew Meyer

Affiliations: Western University, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Lawson ARGC


About Matthew Meyer:

I am a PhD candidate in the department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Schulich.  My research focuses on the role that policy  decisions (specifically resource allocation) play in the accessibility of rehabilitation services for people who experience a stroke in Ontario.  I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work collectively with my supervisory committee at Western, the Ontario Stroke Network, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.  Together, we are working to develop methods to assess how many patients aren’t able to access the rehabilitation services they need after a stroke, or are referred to services that are inappropriate for their needs. We are then looking at how regional variations in rehabilitation resources may be contributing to these challenges. I hope that my research will ultimately lead to better informed decisions about resource allocation.  While my initial goals are to help improve the accessibility of appropriate rehabilitation services post-stroke, I also hope that these methods for evaluation can be adapted in other sectors of our healthcare system.

Why I enjoyed CSHRF:

The CSHRF in Winnipeg was a great opportunity to see some of the excellent research that is taking place both at Schulich and across the country.

Western provides the best student experience among Canada's leading research-intensive universities.